This comprehensive Linux guide expects that you run the following commands as root user but if you decide to run the commands as a different user then ensure that the user has sudo access and that you precede each of the privileged commands with sudo

This is one of the most basic commands of linux. It is used to check the contents of a directory (files in a directory). It displays the content of a directory in alphabetical order.

ls is a command to list computer files in Unix and Unix-like operating systems. When invoked without any arguments, ls lists the files in the current working directory.

In this tutorial, we will show you different ways to check and display the contents of a directory using ls command in linux command line.

General Syntax

Following is the general syntax of the ls command

[email protected]:~$ ls [options] [file|dir]

Displaying Only Names Of Files

If you run the ls command without any option, you will get the names of the files in the current working directory as an output. But, you will not be able to see the details like file type, file size and date modified etc.

[email protected]:~$ ls

dos      hello.c

Displaying Hidden Files/Directories

If you want to display the hidden files or directories in a Directory, you can use the option -a with ls command. The hidden files or directories will have the names starting with a dot (.)

[email protected]:~$ ls -a

.            ..           .Xauthority  .xsession    dos          hello.c

Displaying Detailed Output

If you want to display the detailed output (file or directory, size, modified date and time, file or folder name and owner of file and its permission) you can use the option -lwith the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -l

total 8
drwxr-xr-x    3 root     root           163 Aug 21  2011 dos
-rw-r--r--    1 root     root           242 Jul 15  2017 hello.c

Hiding Current And Previous Directory Entries (.) and (..) In Output

If you want the current directory (.) and previous directory (..) entries to don’t show up in the output, you can use the option -A with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -

.Xauthority  .xsession    dos          hello.c

Displaying Details In Human Readable Format

If you want to display the output of the command to be in a human readable format, you can combine the options -lh with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -lh

total 8
drwxr-xr-x    3 root     root         163 Aug 21  2011 dos
-rw-r--r--    1 root     root         242 Jul 15  2017 hello.c

Highlighting Directories With / At The End Of Name

If you want to mention the directories with a character “/” at the end of the the name, you can use the option -F with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -F

dos/     hello.c

Displaying Output In Reverse Order

If you want to display the output of the command in reverse alphabetical order, you can use the option -r with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -r

hello.c      dos          .xsession    .Xauthority  ..           .

Sorting Output On The Basis Of File Extension

If you want to sort the output of the command alphabetically on the basis of the file extension, you can use the option -X with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -X

asm-1.9     asm.com     debug.com   hpigot.com  hpigot.s

Sorting Output On The Basis Of Last Modified

If you want to sort the output of the command alphabetically on the basis of the last modified time of the file, you can use the option -t with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -t

total 36
-rw-r--r--    1 root     root          4043 Aug 21  2011 hpigot.s
-r-xr-xr-x    1 root     root         15224 Aug 21  2011 debug.com
-rwxr-xr-x    1 root     root            77 Aug 21  2011 hpigot.com
drwxr-xr-x    2 root     root           460 Aug 20  2011 asm-1.9
-rwxr-xr-x    1 root     root          7297 Apr 21  2009 asm.com

Sorting Output On The Base Of File Size

If you want to sort the output of the command on the basis of the file size, you can use the option -lS with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -lS

total 36
-r-xr-xr-x    1 root     root         15224 Aug 21  2011 debug.com
-rwxr-xr-x    1 root     root          7297 Apr 21  2009 asm.com
-rw-r--r--    1 root     root          4043 Aug 21  2011 hpigot.s
drwxr-xr-x    2 root     root           460 Aug 20  2011 asm-1.9
-rwxr-xr-x    1 root     root            77 Aug 21  2011 hpigot.com

It will sort the output on the basis of file size in the descending order i.e. largest file first.

To get the smallest file first, you can combin the option -r with the ls command.

Displaying Sub-directory Tree Recursively

If you want to display the tree of the sub-directories, you can use the option -R with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -R

.:
.            ..           .Xauthority  .xsession    dos          hello.c
 
./dos:
.           ..          asm-1.9     asm.com     debug.com   hpigot.com  hpigot.s
 
./dos/asm-1.9:
.            direct.s     expr.s       message.s    symbols.s
..           display.s    input.s      output.s     symtab.i
Changelog    dos.i        license.txt  readme.txt   symtab.s
asm.s        equ.s        lister.s     support.s

Displaying Inodes With The File Name

If you want to display the inode number with the file name, you can use the option -i with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -i

    645 .               650 asm-1.9         648 debug.com       646 hpigot.s
    643 ..              647 asm.com         649 hpigot.com

Displaying Author Of The File

If you want to display the name of the author of each file in the long/detailed format of the output of the command, you can use the option --author with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -l --author

Displaying Contents Of A Specific Directory

If you want to display the files in a specific directory you can run the command like this

[email protected]:~$ ls -l /name-of-directory

[email protected]:~$ ls -l /abc

This command will display the contents of the directory “abc”

Displaying C-style escapes for non-graphic characters

If the current directory contains a file with a name having a new-line character, the command will display that particular file name containing a question mark (?), which signifies a non-printable character.

But you can use the option -b to print C-style escape characters for non-printable characters.

[email protected]:~$ ls -b

Displaying File Size In Blocks

If you want to display the size of the files in blocks other than bytes, you can use the option --block-size=  with the command

[email protected]:~$ ls -l --block-size=k

Displaying Only Filename And Filesize In The Output

If you want to display only the filename and the file size, you can combine the option -h with the option -l/-s.

[email protected]:~$ ls -l -h

total 8
     4 dos         4 hello.c

Displaying UID And GID Of Files

If you want to display the UID and GID of the files, you can use the option
-n with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -n

total 20
drwx------    3 0        0              135 Oct 24  2017 .
drwxrwxrwx   19 0        0              457 Aug 11 15:28 ..
-rw-------    1 0        0                0 Jul  8  2017 .Xauthority
-rwxr-xr-x    1 0        0               28 Jun 24  2017 .xsession
drwxr-xr-x    3 0        0              163 Aug 21  2011 dos
-rw-r--r--    1 0        0              242 Jul 15  2017 hello.c

Avoiding Backup Files In The Output

If you want the command not to list the backup files in the output, you can use the option -B with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls -B

Displaying Version Of ls Command

If you want to display the version of the command, you can use the option --version with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls --version

ls (GNU coreutils) 8.4
Copyright (C) 2010 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later <http://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html>.
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.
Written by Richard M. Stallman and David MacKenzie.

Displaying Help Page

If you want to display the help page of the command, you can use the option --help with the ls command.

[email protected]:~$ ls --help